Spoiler Warning


Always assume Spoilers and possible profanity in context. These are often adult themed movies.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Goodfellas


 What About it?
(for a full summary of the film, scroll down to "What Happens?")

Goodfellas is basically a story about a "nobody" trying to be a "somebody." as Henry says, describing his younger days. In a very real way, Henry is attracted to the status and the air of celebrity that the gangsters he knew carried with them. Coming from a humble background, with everyone he knew in the same boat, being a somebody, was as unlikely to him as being President. It's a story about getting there and what you'll do to stay there. Henry has a problem accepting where he come from and who he is. He views his father with contempt, and it's telling that once he's an adult, he makes no mention of hisfamily at all. His father is just a "schnook." in Henry's estimation. Once he becomes fascinated with the power and glamour of being a gangster, the thought of living a life like his father is not even imaginable to him. To Henry, living right across the street from the cab stand where they hang out is too much enticement to resist. He sees their comings and goings for years in the most glamorous light, only the public face rather than the  complete picture, which is likely all he would see as an outsider anyway, as appearances are important to them all. The normal experience of a first job becomes his entry into the organization, and the taste of respect and celebrity has him hooked. It's no wonder that high school ceases to be a priority, when he's working with men who drop hundred dollar bills like they were nothing, and even as a kid he's making more money than most adults in his neighborhood.

He's eager to get more involved, looking up to Jimmy, who adds a style to the business. Even the gangsters celebrate Jimmy and Henry is thrilled to be working for him. From very early, Henry's morals are not fixed. We see that he quickly abandons concern for a man who runs down the street after getting shot, reasoning that Pauly wouldn't want the man dying in his place of business. He replaces conventional right and wrong with the rules of the organization. His first arrest is treated as a cause for celebration with Pauly and Jimmy actively cheering the arrest as a rite of passage. By this time, it should be clear that the organization is not untouchable, but in Henry's mind the power is more than a good enough trade off. Henry is presented as the most stable of his group. He's not as wild or ruthless as Jimmy, and not nearly as psychotic as Tommy. Henry is the "everyman" of the mafia here. although that position is certainly relative. The fact that he's telling the story, might lead us to believe that he's presenting himself as favorably as possible. But it's not unlikely that he would look somewhat normal anyway compared to his friends. who both present their own cautionary tales.

Scorsese is at his best here, successfully making Henry's world an insular one. While he drives the same streets as anyone, he and his family see nothing but their own community. As Karen points out, this makes their lives seem "normal." Rather than feeling like the outside world is foreign, they view it as unimportant, existing only to serve their needs. Even prison bends to accomodate them. Their group is the elite in their estimation, affording a life of ridiculous privelege. Karen is soon as comfortable there as Henry is, an easier adjustment as she doesn't get involved with Henry's activities, only has to act as if they're normal. Like Henry, she doesn't mind at all that "everbody wants to be nice to them." She's attracted to the dangerous lifestyle and as she says, she's "turned on" when Henry pistol whips a guy who assaulted her and tells her to hide the gun.

Goodfellas is also largely about the friendship between Henry, Jimmy and Tommy. Their association is like a group within the already closed group. Jimmy starts off as a mentor figure, but soon becomes a "peer" although more experienced, and with more clout than Henry and Tommy. Jimmy doesn't hesitate to have every member of his crew killed rather than pay them, but with Tommy and Henry, there's hesitation. They genuinely enjoy each other's company and have a lot of shared history. Henry and Jimmy might get angry with Tommy, for killing Billy Batts or a defenseless bartender, but they accept these things as part of him, choosing to help him kick the man while he's down and later to bury the body.  Jimmy is certainly capable of having either of them killed as we see when he suspects Henry might talk, but even then he's hesitant and would rather not do it himself.

Tommy is an interesting contrast to Henry. Henry considers everything while Tommy just does whatever he feels like at the moment. He feels some entitlement assuming that he's going to be "made" someday. an honor which Jimmy and Henry can never even hope for. Of the three of them, Tommy is the most cold blooded, able to kill somebody without thinking twice about it. His sense of self importance is monstrous, not allowing even the smallest slight, as we see when Spider, the mild mannered bartender, works up the courage to say "go fuck yourself" after getting shot in the foot and having his injury mocked.  Killing Spider however, is not a major offense and even "allowed" withing their rules. Tommy however isn't stopped even by their most sacred rules, and his pride is more important than the restriction on killing a Made man. The insult he feels when reminded that he used to shine shoes, especially coming from someone in a higher position than his own, is not something he can walk away from, whatever the consequence. The fact that Jimmy and Henry help him with this is, when it's an offense certain to get them killed, is another reminder that the three really do have quite a bond.

Of course the habit of breaking the rules, is one which only grows. Once you've helped kill a Made man, the idea of dealing drugs although it's forbidden, is not so intimidating. Henry sets up his own organization within the organization, using his "everyman" status to get away with it. It's interesting that Pauly warns him about getting involved with drugs and cautions him about Jimmy and Tommy's unpredictability being a source of trouble, when Henry is the architect of the whole drug operation. This is also another instance demonstrating the three's true loyalties. Henry doesn't worry about Jimmy or Tommy messing up his plan and brings them in right away. Their "society of three" is broken up however, when Tommy is whacked. The only 100% Italian of them all, Tommy was their key to fully arriving in the organization, if only by proxy. This is a stark reminder that they don't "belong" as much as they would like to, and could be eliminated far more easily than Tommy was. The true incentive against betrayal, loyalty, is removed and even Jimmy and Henry's relationship is weakened by this.  Despite their previous rule breaking, both Jimmy and Henry felt for the most part, loyal to Pauly, but this weakens that bond as well. "There's nothing we could do." Henry repeats what Jimmy was told about Tommy getting killed, which clearly both he and Jimmy resent.

Goodfellas is a masterpiece of film. Scorsese uses every element available to it's best effect, including the soundtrack as a vital piece of the story. No detail is spared, and the glamorous world that Henry starts in, devolves convincingly into a world where Henry is sweating, run down and paranoid (although justifiably) knowing that he's wanted dead, but having no idea where it will come from. We get that certain death is the only way he would ever leave. Once the decision is made, Henry shows no regret about betraying either Jimmy or Pauly. He points them out in court without hesitation. His only regret is that he no longer feels like royalty.  Henry's amoral nature hasn't changed at all, he's made the only choice he can make to stay alive. The casting is perfect, Ray Liotta is perfect as the most grounded of the three friends and the lynchpin of the story. He's the one after "the American Dream" and lacks the malice that his friends have. Joe Pesci is a force of nature here, Tommy's outbursts come across so convincingly that it's hard to decide between being entertained and horrified. DeNiro is of course, the perfect choice for Jimmy, the weathered veteran, who knows more than the others, but doesn't always feel compelled to share. He shows more menace smoking a cigar and thinking than Tommy could with all his outbursts.  Lorraine Bracco is also great, her Karen, showing us the same story Henry sees but from a different perspective. Her involvement suggests that anyone could get caught up in this lifestyle.

We also see that times change, and at the end there's no cab stand where the gangsters can hang out untouchably. That time period is over and Pauly and Jimmy, the representaives of Henry's ideal lifestyle are both in prison. Even if Henry could eliminate the threat to his lifestyle, he couldn't have that lifestyle back, only perhaps what he could manage selling drugs. In his rush to be a "somebody" he didn't realize that he only became a "nobody" in a different circle. Despite the respect given to him by people outside the organization, he was far from irreplaceable, Tommy's death proving tha the wasn't "special" and there were heights he couldn't even aspire to.  While the money made him comfortable, it became little more than a game, whatever was made being spent right away, until all that was left was a bag of cocaine, which Karen had flushed down the toilet. In the end, he ends up more restricted than his father ever was, having to live by the rules of the witness relocation program. Unlike his father, Henry has to live with what he thought he was, and the memory of living in privelege, while knowing he'll never have it again. He could also remember the fact that he was about to be killed, but his voice doesn't focus on that, the lifestyle being remembered nostalgically, in which case the negatives no longer matter, any more than they would in a dream.




What Happens?

Goodfellas starts off with the announcement that it's based on a true story, and from there takes us to "New York, 1970" and the inside of a car driven by Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) who has two passengers, Jimmy Conway (Robert DeNiro) and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) Henry hears a banging noise and wonders if he has a flat tire. It becomes obvious the banging is coming from the trunk and the three pull over to take a look. Jimmy and Tommy hold weapons while Henry opens the trunk and they find their beaten and bloodied passenger is clearly not dead. Tommy stabs the man repeatedly followed by Jimmy shooting the man a few times.



Henry then narrates "As far back as I could remember I always wanted to be a gangster. To me, being a gangster was better than being President of the United States." We see that we've moved the time back to "East New York, Brooklyn, 1955" We see young Henry through his window, as gangsters hang out at a cab stand across the street. He admires how they can do whatever they want including double parking without even getting tickets. Henry tells us that the local mob was run by Tuddy Cicero (Frank Deleo) for his brother Paul Cicero (Paul Sorvino,) the real boss in the neighborhood. Henry remarks, "Pauly might have moved slow, but it was only because he didn't have to move for anybody." Henry gets a job at working for the Cicero's at the cab stand which pleases his parents initially. Henry enjoys the privileges that come with working for the Ciceros. His father gets upset when he learns Henry is working at the cab stand instead of going to school and beats him to get him to quit, but Henry says he doesn't mind a beating now and then for doing what he wants to do. Henry shows his boss, Tuddy, a black eye and tells him he can't make any more deliveries, but Tuddy instead sends out a crew to grab Henry's mailman, who they beat and threaten to stop him delivering letters from the school to Henry's house.

Henry gains knowledge of Pauly's operations and enjoys the preferential treatment he gets as a result. Describing Pauly's business he says "All they got from Paulie was protection from other guys looking to rip them off. That's what it's all about. That's what the FBI can never understand - that what Paulie and the organization offer is protection for the kinds of guys who can't go to the cops. They're like the police department for wiseguys." We see that Henry is now not just doing deliveries, but breaking car windows in a parking lot before lighting them on fire. He's making more money than he can spend and his mother is shocked when he buys a nice suit and shoes, telling him he "looks like a gangster."
Henry is first exposed to the bad side of the business when he sees a man running down the street after being shot. He gets criticized by Tuddy for helping the man with aprons to help stop the bleeding.  He narrates "I remember feeling bad about the guy, but I also remember feeling that maybe Tuddy was right. I knew that Pauly didn't want anybody dying in the building."
 
Henry remembers first meeting Jimmy Conway, one of the most feared wiseguys. Jimmy didn't mind hits and had a passion for stealing. We see him hijacking shipments with the help of those being hijacked (Jimmy cut them in.) When the cops come after him, he pays them off too. "Jimmy was the kind of guy who rooted for bad guys in the movies." Jimmy introduces Henry to Tommy, and has the two of them work together. Jimmy and Tommy team up to sell Jimmy's stolen cigarettes, but they soon get hassled by a cop who doesn't care who they're working for. Tommy runs to tell Tuddy, but Henry ends up in court over it. Jimmy shows up at court and tells Henry he's proud of him for how he handled "getting pinched." He tells Henry "You took your first pinch like a man and you learn two great things in your life. Look at me. Never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut." He's even more surprised when Pauly himself, and what seems like the whole organization meet him outside the courtroom, applauding him for "breaking his cherry."
 
We then flash forward to "Idlewild Airport, 1963"  Henry and Tommy are grown and are involved in robbing freight and cargo from the airport. Henry explains "Whenever we needed money, we'd rob the airport. To us it was better than Citibank."  We see Henry and Tommy stealing a truck from a guy after he walks into a diner. Henry introduces the colorful cast of characters around him as he and Tommy hang out at a nightclub.
 "For us to live any other way was nuts. Uh, to us, those goody-good people who worked shitty jobs for bum paychecks and took the subway to work every day, and worried about their bills, were dead. I mean they were suckers. They had no balls. If we wanted something we just took it. If anyone complained twice they got hit so bad, believe me, they never complained again."
 
Henry is given a tip on a big job from an airport security guard, who knows about half a million dollars coming through. Henry waves Jimmy over to hear it. Jimmy checks the details and agrees to do it. Tommy has become very mouthy over the years, as well as easily offended and short tempered. He has everyone laughing at a story and Henry remarks that he's funny.
Tommy DeVito: What do you mean I'm funny?
Henry Hill: It's funny, you know. It's a good story, it's funny, you're a funny guy.
Tommy DeVito: What do you mean, you mean the way I talk? What?
Henry Hill: It's just, you know. You're just funny, it's funny, the way you tell the story and everything.
Tommy DeVito: Funny how? What's funny about it?
Anthony Stabile: Tommy no, You got it all wrong.
Tommy DeVito: Oh, oh, Anthony. He's a big boy, he knows what he said. What did ya say? Funny how?
Henry Hill: Just...
Tommy DeVito: What?
Henry Hill: Just... ya know... you're funny.
Tommy DeVito: You mean, let me understand this cause, ya know maybe it's me, I'm a little fucked up maybe, but I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh, I'm here to fuckin' amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? How am I funny?
Henry Hill: Just... you know, how you tell the story, what?
Tommy DeVito: No, no, I don't know, you said it. How do I know? You said I'm funny. How the fuck am I funny, what the fuck is so funny about me? Tell me, tell me what's funny!
Henry Hill: Get the fuck out of here, Tommy!
Tommy: [laughing] Ya motherfucker! I almost had him, I almost had him. Ya stuttering prick ya. Frankie, was he shaking? I wonder about you sometimes, Henry. You may fold under questioning.

The levity is interrupted by the club owner asking Tommy to settle his tab (which is over $7,000.00) Tommy is insulted about being embarrassed in front of his friends and breaks a glass over the man's head and then kicks him. The owner, Sonny then complains directly to Pauly, while Henry listens in, suggesting that Pauly take a piece of the restaurant in order to protect him from Tommy. Pauly agrees to the proposition and Sonny now gets protection from Pauly against Tommy, the police, and anything else. He also has to pay Pauly every week, although Pauly can run up outrageous bills using the restaurant. Sonny runs through the cycle until he's completely broke and then Henry and Tommy torch the place for the insurance. Watching the place go up, Tommy asks Henry to go on a double date with him, as the girl Tommy likes won't go out with him alone and insists on bringing a friend. Henry reluctantly agrees and he ends up meeting a girl named Karen (Lorraine Bracco) Karen narrates their early meetings and we see that Henry stands her up on their second date. She makes Tommy track Henry down and she confronts him in front of the guys who all get a laugh out of it. Karen is impressed with Henry's lifestyle.She remarks "One night, Bobby Vinton sent us champagne. There was nothing like it. I didn't think there was anything strange in any of this. You know, a twenty-one-year-old kid with such connections. He was an exciting guy. He was really nice. He introduced me to everybody. Everybody wanted to be nice to him. And he knew how to handle it." Henry and Tommy pull off the airport job, making off with over $400,000.00. He "does it right," giving Pauly his cut.

Jimmy Conway and Henry visit a guy named Morrie. Henry talks to Morrie while Jimmy watches a cheesy infomercial for wigs that Morrie made. Morrie gives Henry a hard time about paying, although Jimmy can hear the whole conversation in the next room. Jimmy snaps and wraps a phone cord around Morrie's neck, almost killing him before Morrie promises to pay. Henry gets a phone call from Karen who tells him that her neighbor, who she's known her whole life, attempted to touch her and pushed her out of the car when she refused to let him. Henry tells her to go in the house before walking across the street where the guy is working on his car with a couple friends. The man taunts Henry, but is quickly hit in the face with the butt of Henry's pistol. Henry pistol whips him a few more times to make sure he understands, leaving him curled up in the driveway with his friends terrified. He asks Karen to hide the gun. Karen remarks "I know there are women, like my best friends, who would have gotten out of there the minute their boyfriend gave them a gun to hide. But I didn't. I got to admit the truth. It turned me on." Henry and Karen are soon married and she's introduced to the large extended "family." She has trouble making sense of some time spent with the other gangster's wives and hearing their talk gets worried about him going to jail. He reassures her that no one goes to jail unless they want to. Karen thinks "After awhile, it got to be all normal. None of it seemed like crime. It was more like Henry was enterprising, and that he and the guys were making a few bucks hustling, while all the other guys were sitting on their asses, waiting for handouts. Our husbands weren't brain surgeons, they were blue-collar guys. The only way they could make extra money, real extra money, was to go out and cut a few corners." Karen gets used to it, including dealing with cops and feds with search warrants. She becomes a part of Henry's "community" and not dealing with "outsiders, it soon seems normal to her.

Henry, Tommy and Jimmy go out for drinks at one of their bars, when a "made" guy, Billy Batts (Frank Vincent) recognizes Tommy from years ago. Billy tells his friends about Tommy being great at shining shoes. Tommy is of course getting angry and responds.
Tommy: No more shines, Billy.
Billy Batts: What?
Tommy: I said, no more shines. Maybe you didn't hear about it, you've been away a long time. They didn't go up there and tell you. I don't shine shoes anymore.
Billy Batts: Relax, will ya? Ya flip right out, what's got into you? I'm breaking your balls a little bit, that's all. I'm only kidding with ya...
Tommy: Sometimes you don't sound like you're kidding, you know, there's a lotta people around...
Billy Batts: I'm only kidding with you, we're having a party, I just came home and I haven't seen you in a long time and I'm breaking your balls, and you're getting fucking fresh. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend you.
Tommy: I'm sorry too. It's okay. No problem.
Billy Batts: Okay, salud.
Billy Batts: [takes a drink] Now go home and get your fuckin' shine box.
Tommy: [breaks his glass on the bar] Mother fuckin' mutt! You, you fucking piece of shit!
Billy Batts: Yeah, yeah, yeah, come on, come on, come on!
Tommy: Motherfucking... He bought his fucking button! That fake old tough guy! You bought your fucking button!
Tommy: You mother fuck... Fuck! Keep that motherfucker here, keep him here!

Henry tries to settle things down with Billy Batts, who isn't interested. Jimmy insists that Billy was out of line himself, and just lets the matter drop when Billy suggests a drink. They wait until the bar clears out and Tommy attacks Billy, beating him savagely while Jimmy helps by kicking Billy when he's on the ground. They then throw Billy in the trunk and go to find a shovel. They stop at Tommy's house and accidentally wake his mother who insists on feeding them before they go. This brings us to the scene at the beginning of the movie which concludes with them burying Billy Batts. Henry explains that Billy Batts is a big problem as he was a "Made" guy, which made him untouchable, requiring a good reason to kill him, as well as asking permission and getting an OK, or you'd get whacked yourself.


Henry takes up with a mistress, Janice (Gina Mastociacomo) He and Karen have kids by now and Pauly invites them over for dinner. Pauly makes a point of asking Henry what he knows about Billy Batts disappearing. Henry tells him he doesn't know anything other than seeing him at the bar one night. Pauly asks him to keep an eye out. Jimmy tells Henry that they have to move Billy's body as the property was sold. They move the remains. Meanwhile Henry, has set up his mistress with an apartment. When Janice tells Henry she's in trouble at work, Henry brings Tommy and Jimmy to pay a visit to her boss to explain that she can do whatever she wants. Henry, Tommy and Jimmy meet the other guys at a bar to play poker, and Tommy gets annoyed at "Spider" a kid who works there, who Tommy claims was ignoring him when he asked for a drink. Spider is apologetic and tells him he'll get him a drink right away, but Tommy pulls out his gun and says that Spider should "dance" for him, like he'd seen done in a Western move. He shoots at the ground by Spider's feet and ends up shooting the kid in the foot.

Karen confronts Henry at home, sensing something's going on, telling him to get out and "go to your ready made whores." They meet up for another poker game. Spider is there again, this time with a cast on his foot. Tommy makes cracks about Spider's cast, accusing him of looking for sympathy. Spider has had enough and says "Why don't you go fuck yourself Tommy." Jimmy throws some money down on the table for Spider and tells him that "took some balls." Everyone's impressed and laughing. Jimmy needles Tommy good naturedly, asking if he's going to let Spider get away with that. Tommy however, pulls his gun and shoots Spider dead. Jimmy and Henry are upset and tell Tommy he's digging his own hole for the kid.

Karen finds Janice's apartment and shows up ringing the buzzer, while holding her kids hands as they look on, telling Janice to stay away from her husband. She calls the building superintendent while buzzing the apartment so Janice can hear her announce that Janice is a whore. Karen goes even further, waking up Henry and holding a gun in his face. Henry reassures her and calms her down until she lowers the gun and he slaps her, scolding her that he can't deal with this at home. Henry goes to Janice's apartment and Pauly comes to visit him. Pauly tells him that Karen was over to see him and that he's going to have to go back to her to "keep up appearances." Pauly offers to explain things to Karen while Henry takes a trip to Florida with Jimmy. In Florida they have to convince a gambler to pay his debt. He offers to pay when Jimmy decides to throw him into a lion's cage at the zoo. Once they fly home, Jimmy and Henry are arrested, as the guy they shook down had a sister who worked with the FBI. Jimmy and Henry both get ten years in a federal penitentiary. Pauly is also in prison, doing a year for contempt. The gangsters get their own section in prison, where they hang out together and make a big production out of dinner. Karen comes to visit and makes a scene finding that Janice came to visit him. Karen is upset that no one is helping her while Henry's in prison. He tells her to keep bringing him drugs which he sells inside.

When he's released, Pauly warns him not to get into the drug business. He doesn't care about what happened in prison, but he doesn't want his organization involved in it. Pauly adds a warning about Jimmy, stating that he's a good earner "but too wild, takes chances." and that Tommy is "crazy, a cowboy, got too much to prove." Pauly restates the warning about "junk" telling Henry about an associate who got seventy years because his men were dealing behind his back. Henry agrees to tell Pauly if he sees anyone dealing drugs.  Henry however starts dealing coke. He gets his product from Pittsburgh so Pauly doesn't know about it, and soon brings Tommy and Jimmy into his operation. He's soon making serious profits. Maurie gives Henry a tip on "the biggest heist in American history, the Lufthansa heist." Jimmy assembles a big crew and makes preparations, but Marie gets impatient and keeps bugging Jimmy for an advance on his cut.

Henry recruits everyone to work for him running drugs, getting an old babysitter to run back and forth from Pittsburgh smuggling drugs using a baby as cover, and a new mistress Sandy, who cuts the product at her place. Henry hears the heist has been pulled off on the radio and everyone's happy. One of the men involved immediately gets married and buys his wife a flashy new car, causing Jimmy to get angry, because he told everyone, not to do anything flashy or buy anything. Another of the crew then walks in with his wife wearing a $20,000.00 mink coat. Maurie starts badgering Jimmy about the money again, although Henry advises him to wait, knowing Jimmy's pissed off at everyone for their extravagant purchases. Jimmy gives Henry a cut, advising him not to buy anything. We see Tommy at Stacks' (the driver for the heist who was supposed to make sure the truck was scrapped) house, waking him up and then shooting him in the head. Henry tells us that rather than scrap the truck, Stacks got high with girlfriend and fell asleep. The cops quickly found the truck and possibly have fingerprints. Henry asks Jimmy if everything's alright and Jimmy tells him not to worry about it and Jimmy and Tommy reveal that Tommy is going to get "made." Morrie interrupts, demanding his money. Henry asks him again to wait and tells him to "stop busting balls." Jimmy asks Henry "Do you think Maury tells his wife everything?" Henry narrates "That's when I knew Jimmy was gonna whack Morrie. That's how it happens. That's how fast it takes for a guy to get whacked." Henry points out that Morrie talks so much that nobody listens to him. Henry plans to talk Jimmy out of killing Morrie, but playing cards, Jimmy tells him "forget about tonight." meaning the hit is off. It turns out that Jimmy goes ahead with it anyway, killing Morrie with Tommy, who remarks after killing him "I thought he'd never shut the fuck up." Morrie's wife shows up at Henry's house, looking for Morrie. Henry asks Jimmy what to tell her and  Jimmy suggests he say that Morrie "ran away with some broad." Jimmy takes off, but knocks on the car window of a car in the parking lot, which is apparently the Feds tailing him. He tells them "Come on fuckos let's go for a ride." Jimmy starts killing everyone involved in the heist, which Henry insist concerned about, other than keeping his mouth shut, as he wasn't involved other than the initial tip. Jimmy gets very excited the day Jimmy is due to get made. Henry narrates:
"You know, we always called each other good fellas. Like you said to, uh, somebody, You're gonna like this guy. He's all right. He's a good fella. He's one of us.: You understand? We were good fellas. Wiseguys. But Jimmy and I could never be made because we had Irish blood. It didn't even matter that my mother was Sicilian. To become a member of a crew you've got to be one hundred per cent Italian so they can trace all your relatives back to the old country. See, it's the highest honor they can give you. It means you belong to a family and crew. It means that nobody can fuck around with you. It also means you could fuck around with anybody just as long as they aren't also a member. It's like a license to steal. It's a license to do anything. As far as Jimmy was concerned with Tommy being made, it was like we were all being made. We would now have one of our own as a member."

Tommy takes with the guys escorting him to the ceremony, asking them if they remember getting made. They lead him inside a house and Tommy realizes he's been led to a basement,and isn't getting made at all, saying "Oh no!" just before getting shot in the back of the head. Jimmy learns soon afterwards and tells Henry what happened. Henry reasons "It was revenge for Billy Batts, that and a lot of other things. And there was nothing that we could do about it. Batts was a made man, and Tommy wasn't. And we had to sit still and take it. It was among the Italians. It was real greaseball shit. They even shot Tommy in the face so his mother couldn't give him an open coffin at the funeral."

We then flash ahead to "Sunday May 11th, 1980, 6:55 am" Henry snorts some cocaine, then throws some guns in a bag which he throws into his trunk. He notices a helicopter overhead and remarks about everything he has to do. He brings the guns to Jimmy, but they don't match the silencers Jimmy has. Jimmy tells him he won't pay for them and tells Henry to stop with the drugs as "they're turning your mind to mush." Henry is sweaty and looks pretty ragged. He visits the hospital to pick up his brother and the doctor there wants to look at him. He tells his brother about the helicopter following him. He brings his brother to his house where he starts dinner preparations. He tells his brother to watch the sauce and takes Karen with him to her mother's house where he hides the guns, getting worried about the helicopter. Satisfied that the helicopter is gone he picks them up again and brings them to see his cocaine connection. His cocaine guy takes the guns and gives him his cocaine, some of which he needs to get to Lois (the babysitter) to transport, and some to Sandy to cut it. before that. He also can't stop worrying about the dinner he's preparing. He stops at home, checks dinner, heads to Sandy's cuts the cocaine once, and heads home. After dinner, Lois tells Henry that she needs to go home to get her lucky hat. Getting in the car with Lois he soon finds a gun to his head, and is told not to move. He realizes it's the cops, remarking "For a second I thought I was dead. But, when I heard all the noise, I knew they were cops. Only cops talk that way. If they'd been wiseguys, I wouldn't have heard a thing. I would've been dead." In the house, Karen panics, grabbing the bags of cocaine and flushing it down the toilet and hiding a pistol in her panties.

The screen then reads "The Aftermath" and we see Henry at the police station, a detective saying "Talk to me, when was the last time you took a collar? Hey fuckhead, I'm talking to you. You don't wanna say a fucking word to me, you don't have to. I don't really give a fuck. Twenty five years, pal, that's what you're looking at." Henry reveals that he assumed the copter was the local cops, but "they turned out to be narcs. They'd been on me a month, phone taps, surveillance, everything." We see that they have Lois as well, and they bring in Sandy with all of her cooking utensils. Karen comes to see him, and he explains that he needs to get out and put everything right with Pauly, or he'll end up getting whacked, as Pauly is afraid he'll talk. Karen gets her mother to put up her house to raise bail money. Henry knows Pauly is mad about the drugs, and he also worries about Jimmy, because Jimmy knows that if Pauly finds out he was in on the drug trade with Henry, Pauly would have Jimmy whacked first. He plans to sell the drugs in the house, but Karen tells him she flushed it, which causes Henry to panic as that was all the "money" he had. Henry goes to see Pauly and apologizes. Pauly is clearly angry and hurt that Henry look him in the eye and lied to him. Henry begs for help, and Pauly gives him a big wad of cash and says "Now I've gotta turn my back."  Henry narrates "3,200 bucks, that's what he gave me. That's what he gave me for a lifetime. It wasn't even enough to pay for the coffin." Karen tells him she doesn't want to run, although Henry tells her if they stay, they're dead. Karen goes to see Jimmy in secret. He asks if she knows what questions they've been asking him and tells her to have Henry call him. He mentions some designer dresses which catches her interest and he directs her down the street into a dark alley where a bunch of men are unloading crates. She gets spooked and runs the other way, getting to her car and speeding off. Henry hears her in the driveway and rushes to the door, gun in hand to find her sobbing. Narrator Henry explains, "If you're part of a crew, nobody ever tells you that they're going to kill you, doesn't happen that way. There weren't any arguments or curses like in the movies. See, your murderers come with smiles, they come as your friends, the people who've cared for you all of your life. And they always seem to come at a time that you're at your weakest and most in need of their help." He explains that he agreed to meet Jimmy, and made sure it was in a crowded public place, where he arrived 15 minutes early to find Jimmy already there. Henry thinks that Jimmy is only trying to ascertain whether Henry will rat him out. Jimmy then gives Henry a job in Florida, which strikes him as odd.  "Jimmy had never asked me to do a hit before, and now he's asking me to go down to Florida with Anthony to make a hit. That's when I knew I would never have come back from Florida alive."

Henry and Karen start talking with the feds, asking questions about witness relocation. Karen has difficulty with the idea of leaving her family, but Henry insists that if  she doesn't do it, he won't do it. We see Jimmy and Pauly getting arrested. and Henry in court testifying. He points out Jimmy and Pauly. He remarks that it was hard to leave "the life"

Anything I wanted was a phone call away. Free cars. The keys to a dozen hideout flats all over the city. I bet twenty, thirty grand over a weekend and then I'd either blow the winnings in a week or go to the sharks to pay back the bookies. Didn't matter. It didn't mean anything. When I was broke, I'd go out and rob some more. We ran everything. We paid off cops. We paid off lawyers. We paid off judges. Everybody had their hands out. Everything was for the taking. And now it's all over. And that's the hardest part. Today everything is different; there's no action... have to wait around like everyone else. Can't even get decent food - right after I got here, I ordered some spaghetti with marinara sauce, and I got egg noodles and ketchup. I'm an average nobody... get to live the rest of my life like a schnook."

We then get text information, which informs us that Henry Hill, is still in witness relocation. He and Karen separated. Pauly died in prison and Jimmy is still serving his sentence, to be eligible for parole in 2004, at 78 years old.



8 comments:

Paul S said...

Superb review of a superb movie Brent.Your observation of the characters in Goodfellas is spot on, especially Pesci's Tommy.I've always felt exactly the same "you dont know whether to be entertained or appalled by him"
Goodfellas is one of those classic movies that has often been imitated but never bettered.
Your post certainly does it justice.

Brent said...

Thanks Paul! I love this film, it really portrays the gangsters as realistically flawed characters. Tommy's really something!

J.D. said...

Awesome review! Definitely my fave Scorsese film, right up there with MEAN STREETS in brilliantly showing the intimate details of gangster life. While MEAN STREETS was about small-time crooks, GOODFELLAS is documents the next level up. These guys are big-time criminals pulling multi-million dollar heists. I just love the dialogue in this film - so many quotable lines, so many great performances by the entire cast, even minor roles, like Kevin Corrigan as Ray Liotta's brother or Samuel L. Jackson's bit part. Great stuff.

Brent said...

Thanks JD! It's funny you should mention "Mean Streets" as I was considering that one for this post, but I'm sure I'll get to it before long. Totally agree on the quotability, you hear quotes from it everywhere! That's one good indicator that your dialogue works! Casting ways, yes, there was not a weak link in the chain!

J.D. said...

Yeah, I'm always telling a buddy of mine to "go get his shinebox" - it is so easy to slip in a few key lines of dialogue from this film into everyday conversation...

Brent said...

@J.D. Haha! Yes, I've done the same thing, although usually I prefer, "What are you still doing here? I though I told you to go..."

Cary Watson said...

Nice piece, Brent. In Nicholas Pileggi's book about Henry Hill (Wiseguys) there's an anecdote about an incident in which a bunch of the mafiosi from the cab stand chased a suspected thief to the top of a five-storey apartment building and then tossed him off. The story neatly defines the lawlessness and ruthlessnes of the wiseguys, and also the way they could gain the respect of the neighbourhood by acting as guardians. That scene should have been in the movie, it couldn't be a more cinematic moment, but the thief was black. There was more than a whiff of racism in the actions of the wiseguys, and I'm guessing that Scorsese thought they, and Hill, would become utterly unsympathetic in the eyes of the audience if he showed that crime. I'd love to find out why that incident didn't make it into the Goodfellas script.

Brent Allard said...

Thanks Cary! It does sound like a perfect movie scene. Your suspicion sounds possible to me. Their group was certainly insular, but that degree of violence would be hard to redeem if they had showed Hill being involved. Of course it wouldn't have been much of a stretch to have Pesci's character get out of hand and initiate it himself.